AUSTIN, Texas — As Central Texas heats up, rattlesnakes are making their way out of their dens.
“You can stand right next to one and not know it," said the owner of Austin Reptile Service, Tim Cole.
Cole, says springtime is the peak season for rattlesnakes. "One, they’ve gone all winter without feeding. Two, the daytime temperatures aren’t too hot, and three, it’s breeding time for most species so that’s why we see more in spring," explained Cole.
Texas is home to four venomous snakes: copperheads, cottonmouths, coral snakes, and rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes are more likely to be found in rural natural areas rather than a busy neighborhood.
"If you have properties that are adjacent to agricultural areas, anything like that could provide habitats for snakes that they may encounter," said herpetologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Paul Crump. "You have like 80 to 90 species of snakes in Texas. Most of them are non-venomous. Nine out of ten snakes are completely harmless and can’t cause you any physical harm."
Crump says the chances of getting bit by a venomous snake are low, but it's still important to have situational awareness. "If you’re walking through tall grass for example, keep your eyes out if you can’t see where your feet are going," explained Crump. "Don’t go sticking your hands in places where you can't see because that’s the kind of situation where people will end up getting bitten."
If you come face to face with a rattlesnake, Crump and Cole suggest walking around it or walking the other way. "They’re [snakes] not chasing you, we’re bigger than they are. They have no reason to interact with us, but if his hiding place is behind you, guess where he’s going to go, right behind you because that’s where he wants to go to get away from you," said Cole.
As for snakes near residential homes, Cole says it's most likely a nonvenomous Texas rat snake. "The Texas rat snake is the most common snake people call about. They’re in every neighborhood in Austin. I’ve gotten them within a block of the capitol," said Cole.
There are ways to lower the chance of having any snake slither onto your property.
Crump says it starts with a well-maintained lawn. "Keeping the firewood off the ground, don’t leave an accessible amount of bird feeder or deer corn laying around to provide food for rodents and then would attract snakes in," said Crump.
If you do get bit by a venomous snake, Cole says to call 911 immediately. "That's the best thing to do. Let EMS come and take care of you and there’s a high probability that you haven’t even had venom injected which is what they call a dry bite," said Cole.
Although snakes may seem intimidating, Crump says they are beneficial to our ecosystem and want to stay out of your way. "Overall I wouldn’t let the existence of snakes be one of the things that keep people enjoying parks and doing what we want to do," said Crump.